June 15, 2016
Open Letter to Board of County Commissioners, Kittitas County, WA
Commissioner Obie O’Brien
Commissioner Paul Jewell
Commissioner Laura Osiadacz
We are concerned citizens who write representing Friends of Shady Acres, a community organization that advocates for the Shady Acres Homeowners Association and supports affordable housing solutions in Kittitas County. We write in support of the June 10, 2016 resolution, passed unanimously by the Homelessness and Affordable Housing Committee in a public meeting. We ask that you give particular attention to point 2 of the resolution, to wit, that the Committee, “recommends that the BOCC give strong consideration to seeking an alternative purchaser for the Shady Brook Mobile Home Park property with the intent of maintaining affordable housing.”
At the June 10 open meeting, a Committee member specifically asked Mr. Lowel Kruger, executive director of the Housing Authority of Kittitas County, if the Housing Authority were prepared to purchase the Shady Brook Mobile Home Park. Mr. Kruger responded that the Housing Authority is ready and willing to purchase the Shady Brook property from Mr. and Mrs. Barton, at the same price that the County has offered, and that the Authority has the financing necessary to complete this purchase. The Housing Authority would then be able to administer the property and maintain the 30 or so resident families in their homes.
In response to follow up questions, Mr. Kruger further indicated that the Authority is also prepared to make a fair market offering for the Branding Iron mobile home park at 505 S. Pearl Street. This combined offer would allow the Bartons, who have indicated a desire to retire from the mobile home park business, the opportunity to sell both properties. Since the Housing Authority is committed to maintaining Shady Brook as an affordable housing complex, the Bartons would be spared state and local excise taxes, which they would need to pay under the current purchase and sale agreement.
We urge that the County, after consultation with the Bartons and Housing Authority, agree to assign the purchase and sale agreement, to the Housing Authority as the new purchaser. The Bartons thus would suffer no financial penalty (and will indeed realize a modest financial advantage.) No taxpayer or County reserves will need to be expended on this purchase. Thus $1.45 million in County resources will be available for other purposes. The over fifty manufactured housing pads at Shady Brook will remain available for low income housing purposes, substantially contributing to the County’s affordable housing mission. Most important from a humanitarian standpoint, the vibrant and highly functional Shady Brook/Shady Acres community will remain intact, without disruption to its many families.
As an added advantage, the Housing Authority would then be able to work with the Shady Brook/Shady Acres residents to move towards low-interest financing of new energy-star manufactured homes. Public-private partnerships should be able to aid in landscaping and the beautification of the property, allowing the park to be an even better neighbor to the County Fairgrounds and Event Center.
We also note that HAHC members at the June 10 hearing remarked that the consultative process leading to the Event Center Master Plan was not an inclusive one. No effort was made to communicate in written and oral Spanish with the impacted population, primarily composed of Spanish-speakers, some of whom do not read. The Shady Acres Homeowners Association, an organization registered with the Secretary of State, has been unequivocal in expressing the residents’ joint desire to remain living in their own homes, in the community that they cherish.
We further note that the resident families at Shady Brook/Shady Acres have been placed in an intolerable situation of uncertainty, not knowing when mass eviction and coerced relocation proceedings might begin. This is, simply put, inhumane.
We thus urge the BOCC to begin immediate consultation with the Bartons and the Housing Authority, with the aim of assigning the Purchase and Sale agreement to the Housing Authority, thereby maintaining the Shady Brook/Shady Acre neighborhood in its current form under Housing Authority management.
J. Hope Amason